The bright pink, 20-foot long inflatable colon display at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital (OHRH) had 1,300 visitors by 2 p.m. on Thursday. The Kentucky Cancer Program (KCP) collaborated with Owensboro Health and Kentucky CancerLink for their “Journey Inside the Colon” event.
Anyone and everyone was welcome to stroll through the replica colon and learn the ins and outs of the large intestine or bowel and get information on colon screening.
Owensboro Health marketing specialist Cherita Flener said it was OHRH’s third year to hold the colon exhibit at the hospital, while the Kentucky Cancer Program has used the inflatable exhibit throughout Kentucky for several years.
“Three years ago, we decided to bring it in and set it up here,” said Owensboro Health clinical educator Carla Terrell. “It’s here for awareness. The KCP does surveys of people to get an idea of trends for Kentuckians.”
Those who journeyed through the colon were also able to receive free colon-screening home kits provided by Kentucky CancerLink.
“Kentucky Cancer Link will provide to people who are of age and have not had a colonoscopy — they will provide a home kit free of charge that can be done at home at their convenience. It would be sent in and processed,” Terrell said.
The home kits are available through KCL all year long, but were available at OHRH on Thursday from 8-4 p.m. during the colon exhibit.
“We’ve spread a lot of awareness, and we’ve had a lot of folks that have asked good questions and will reach out to their doctors afterward,” Flener said. “It’s been a fun day too. I think this environment makes it nice for people to feel comfortable enough to ask, to be able to ask those questions.”
Registered nurse Diana Smith specializes in endoscopy, and said the polyps (small clumps of cells that form on the lining of the colon) shown in the display, are often found inside colons that are at risk for, or are even in the latter stages of, cancer.
For this reason, Smith strongly suggests colon cancer screening.
“If the test comes up positive, you’ve got to have a colonoscopy. It’s not all about colon cancer — it’s just colon health,” Smith said. “Colon cancer is the only cancer you can prevent before it starts by having a colonoscopy and, if there are polyps, removing those polyps. If it’s made up of precancerous cells then we just cured your colon cancer. That’s it, it’s not even cancer yet.”
Smith said a procedure may be required for large beds of polyps but, even then, precancerous cells and polyps can be removed without the use of chemotherapy, radiation or the removal of parts of the colon, as long as they are spotted early enough.
According to statistics from KCP, colon cancer is highly treatable. A 90 percent five-year survival rate has been achieved for those whose colon cancer was spotted in its earliest stages. Since 90 percent of new cases occur in individuals 50 or older, the KCP encourages screenings and colonoscopies by age 45.